One of my missions on this blog is to try out Japanese recipes, with the hope of proving to myself and to you that cooking Japanese food is not difficult, and can be really fun. I’ve had a lot of success so far, and am starting to get more creative with my dishes now. Japanese food has become so popular here in the UK, and I think people are starting to want to experiment in the kitchen a bit more. Many basic Japanese ingredients (such as sushi rice, wasabi and soy sauce) are available in ordinary supermarkets, and I sometimes hear of sushi making courses being run.
Now there’s a place for all you budding chefs out there to have a go at Japanese cooking, under the watchful eye of an expert – Sozai Cooking School.
Sozai, meaning both ‘household dishes’ and ‘ingredients’, is billed as the first Japanese cookery school in the UK, and I had the pleasure of attending one of their opening nights to find out what it is all about…
Sozai Cooking School is just a short walk from Liverpool Street Station (or an even shorter walk from Aldgate and Aldgate East), and classes are also held at SO Restaurant in Soho. The school is the brainchild of Tetsuro Hama of SO Restaurant and Akitoshi Handa of ASTA, a popular lunch place in the City. Handa was also part of the start-up team for Wagamama, designing their concept.
The evening was well attended, and I found myself looking around the crowded room thinking “who are all these people?”. I had expected to see a number of familiar faces, but actually only ran into one fellow blogger, the lovely Fran Pickering of Sequins and Cherry Blossoms. It was great, though, that there were so many people there – people who were obviously interested in Japanese food and cooking. In fact, people were so keen that there was a bit of a scrum when it was announced that a handful of people could have a go!
But before the cooking came the entertainment, and we were treated to a wonderful performance by none other than folk singer Akari Mochizuki and Tsugaru shamisen player Hibiki Ichikawa. I’ve seen the pair perform so many times now, but I’m never disappointed.
Now to the food…
There were two demonstration sushi-making classes, both run by Yuki Gomi. Yuki is a Japanese chef and cookery writer, with her first book, Sushi at Home, being published by Penguin this June (I’ll certainly be looking out for that one!). Like me, Yuki hopes to show people that making sushi is easy, and something that everyone can do in their own homes.
After showing the keen audience how to roll (first California Rolls, then later Tobiko Maki Rolls), the lucky few who had reached the tables fast enough had a go.
Each participant presented Yuki with their sushi roll so she could cut it (cutting sushi is one of the hardest parts!), and everyone looked very pleased with their efforts.
The school will run classes by a number of instructors, including Akemi Yokoyama, Atsuko Ikeda, Kaoru Yamamoto (Head Chef at SO Restaurant), Tomokazu Matsuya (Head Sushi Chef at So Restaurant), and Yuki Gomi. They will also sometimes have classes taught by special guests chefs, including Anton Edelmann, Daisuke Hayashi of Chrysan, Machiko Chiba (inventor of Cook-Zen), Mari Fujii (co-founder of Zenmikai, a school specialising in the instruction of shojin ryori), and Nuno Mendes. I’m particularly excited to see Mari Fujii’s name on the list as she is a specialist in shojin ryori (vegan Buddhist cuisine), and I would love to learn from her, having met her once at the Japanese Embassy.
As well as sushi making classes, there will be all sorts of other classes available at Sozai, including Japas (Japanese style tapas), vegetarian classes, and chances to make kaiseki (traditional multi-course dinners) and street food such as ramen and okonomiyaki. The school’s website also has a ‘suggestion box’ area, where you can suggest a dish. If the dish receives enough votes, it could become the subject of a new class. Find out more about the classes here.